Red sandstone railing pillar

Kushan dynasty, 2nd century AD
From Mathura, northern India

A flute player

The Kushan Empire (first - third century AD) fostered a remarkably international and composite culture that stretched from Afghanistan in the north-west to the Ganga river in Eastern India. Mathura formed the eastern capital of the Kushan dynasty. Buddhism flourished under the Kukshan kings and sculptures such as this come from the circular railings that surrounded early stupas.

Buddhist centres in early India had already assumed international importance by the second and first centuries BC. They attracted pilgrims from all parts of India and central Asia. Stupas and monastic settlements became places for extended cultural exchange. This can be seen in the sculptures as well. For example, unlike the common Indian practice of wearing flowing robes, this figure wears a stitched shirt, usually taken to be influence from the north-western parts of the Kushan realm.

Many images of devotees show them engaged in scenes of music and dance: such activities evidently formed an integral part of early Buddhist ritual.

The choice of mottled red sandstone, the figure's rounded proportions, short nose and thick lips are all typical of Mathura workmanship.

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Height: 50.800 inches

Museum number

Asia OA1965.2-26.1



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